Digital Devices for Luddites

March 8, 2012 12:00 am

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It sells for about $60 without a service plan. With a plan (which starts at $10 a month, and goes up to about $40 a month for unlimited talk and text time), the phone goes for about $30.

I also tested the Telikin home PC, another nifty device aimed at tech novices. The Telikin, which sells for about $700, is a full-fledged home computer designed to be extremely easy to use. Instead of running Windows or the Mac operating system, it has its own custom user interface that does away with multiple on-screen icons and application windows. When you turn on the Telikin, you're presented with a menu of about a dozen main functions: e-mail, contacts, calendar, video chat, Web, games and so on. Press one of these buttons (either with the included mouse or just by touching the screen), and your full screen is taken over by the program in question.

This full-screen computing philosophy, which eliminates any other distracting windows vying for your attention, will feel limited and sluggish to people who expect a lot of power and functionality from PCs, but for those who just want to get a few tasks done, it can prove quite handy. And because the Telikin can't run most programs downloaded from the Web, it is also nearly immune to viruses and other digital nasties. (On the other hand, this may mean that it won't be able to run certain specialized applications you need, either.)

I'm not among the Telikin's target audience, and I sometimes found myself frustrated by its limitations. But I do see its appeal. It comes with a clear, precise instruction manual that explains how to get the machine up and running quickly. Even better, it also comes with a two-month subscription to a V.I.P. support hot line, where operators will answer any question you have about the computer.

"Folks that are technophobes, they need to talk to someone who will not make them feel dumb," said Mike Tudisco, the chief operating officer of Venture 3 Systems, which makes the Telikin. Mr. Tudisco said that the company's support representatives are trained to deal with people who have very basic questions about computers, "people who don't know where the 'at' key is, or who don't know how to use a mouse." (An optional subscription to the V.I.P. support line is about $10 a month after the first two months.)

First Published 2012-03-07 23:07:58

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